Monthly Archives: December 2015

Thirsty Thursday – Winter Ciders

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Happy Thirsty Thursday!

You may or may not know my love for hard ciders. It’s a good go-to choice when I’m not feeling wine and there isn’t a beer on tap that tickles my fancy.

The thing is, I tend to like my ciders dry. The cloyingly sweet, commercial ones can be too much for me.

There is one exception.

J.K.’s ScrumpyScrumpy

J.K.’s Scrumpy is my favorite cider of all time and it does taste sweet. I even put it in my Fantasy Draft last year! Which reminds me, I haven’t yet done one for 2015. Time is ticking… YIKES!

Why is it my favorite? It tastes like the unfiltered cider you get at an apple orchard! We’ve given it to friends to try and I can’t think of a single person who didn’t agree that this is the best cider around. The cidery is out of Michigan. We hoped that they had a tasting room for us to try out on our next visit to the mitten; but alas, they didn’t at the time. It appears that they *might* now; but it’s hard to tell.

In any case, a trip to Total Wine not too long ago prompted us to try these two specialties!

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We were looking for local seasonal brews at the time when I spotted these. It was a no-brainer to make purchase these new-to-us J.K. ciders because they come in at around $6/bottle whereas some specialty bombers of beer go for $10 to $20!

When we finally decided to crack them open one evening, I told Rob that we needed taste them side-by-side to compare. I wish I would have taken a photo so I could show you the extreme difference in color of these two nectars; but it was so dark in our living room that I’m sure the comparison would have been lost anyway.

Let’s have a look…

Cuvée Winterruption:

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I’ll start with this one because after pouring them, it was lighter in color. I’d like to say that the descriptions helped guide me, too; but the truth is that the color was the sole reason I chose it as our first taste.

I thought that Rob would not be a fan because of the cinnamon. Really, who doesn’t like cinnamon?!

I do love the descriptions on the backs of their bottles as well as their words of advice… especially this time of year.

“Please enjoy a cider with someone you love and perhaps someone you don’t. Please mend a bridge, extend a hand and be good to one another.”

That’s advice we can all heed.

Northern Neighbour – Saskatoon Cuvée:

IMG_5211I feel really ignorant about the crops of our neighbors to the north. I had never heard of a Saskatoon before. I probably assumed it was one who resided in Saskatchewan! A search on The Google resulted in photos and descriptions of a berry very similar to the blueberry, but also called endearingly “the little purple apple.” Mmmm…

~

Our thoughts…

OH WOW! We loved them both. Neither of us could pick a favorite. They are still made in that wonderfully nostalgic unfiltered-farmhouse-orchard-cider-style. The Winterruption seemed much lighter in style. The spices were festive, yet still subtle enough that the cinnamon didn’t turn Rob off.

The Northern Neighbour is much darker in color, assumingly from the dark “little purple apples” added to the mix. The collaboration is a unique, yet perfect one.

These ciders alone could bring peace on earth. Well, at least collaborating with neighbors and suggesting kindness on the back of a bottle is a start. 😉

What beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) do you find make you feel most festive over the holiday season?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

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Saint Dinette

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Recently, Rob ripped a Best Burgers page out of our most recent copy of Mpls St. Magazine. I can’t seem to find the specific article online, but many of these restaurants were listed with top burgers.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that Rob has a thing for burgers. He has written a Top 10 Twin Cities Burger list for me many, many times. It really should be updated again!

We do not have a shortage of great burgers in this area, so finding the opportunity to make a trek out just to try a new one is sometimes a little more daunting then just grabbing a bite to eat nearby.

However, I found the opportunity to try one at Saint Dinette in St.Paul:

  • Rob had been out of town for two consecutive long weekends, so I was eating really healthy! (Read: It was time for a burger.)
  • We had a Groupon for Wabasha Brewing that was expiring soon.
  • I wanted to combine it with dinner in St. Paul. I scanned Rob’s burger list and made the suggestion when he arrived back in town from Sedona.

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First thing to note… Saint Dinette is kind of hard to find. We plugged the address into The Google, but we couldn’t find it on the block where it was supposed to be. We decided we just missed a sign and parked at the Farmers Market parking lot and decided to find it on foot.

Still no luck.

It ended up being on the other side of the street and the only marking was a sandwich board on the sidewalk, which we couldn’t see while driving because of the cars parked on the street.

Per our usual, we pulled up to the bar. Despite a wine list that had much more than the Usual Suspects and some interesting cocktails…

IMG_5140…I promptly ordered a W00t Stout because I saw the tap handle. That’s one hard-to-find beer! I seized the opportunity.

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I considered getting something other than a burger from this delectable menu…

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But a cheeseburger still sounded so good to me.

I made the right choice.

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The perfect bun sear, two thin patties (you can’t order the temp here, but that doesn’t really matter!) and melty, gooey cheese.  Simple goodness. We didn’t even consider splitting and I’m glad we didn’t.

We did order a bucket of fries to share.

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It could have fed three or four people! We probably didn’t even need them. They weren’t anything too special, but the salty goodness kept us dipping back into the bucket. For the record, Rob and I rarely use ketchup. But these crinkle cut classics are the sort that marry with ketchup perfectly.

I finished off my evening with an espresso. I love when restaurants offer this. So the moment we parked our butts at that bar and I spotted the espresso machine, I knew this would be my meal-ending fate.

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And it was perfect.

No regrets.

Saint Dinette‘s simple cheeseburger is worth the trek. Thank you, Mpls St. Paul Magazine, for keeping us up-to-date on what we must try in our Twin Cities.

Do you follow your local food trends and try the best-of new restaurants?

Cheers~
Carrie

Lately – The Cooking

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So while this blog was abandoned for some time, what the heck have I been doing?

Here are a few things…

We celebrated Rob’s birthday at a friend’s house the weekend before Thanksgiving. I went in search of a cake to bring and found the perfect thing…

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Yes. That is a cake I found at Byerly’s, a local higher-end grocery store here in MN. You may recall that Rob is allergic to turkey. So this cake – YES! That’s a cake! – is one he could have. And the cake was actually quite delicious! (Especially served on Hello Kitty plates!)

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Rob went out of town for two long weekends in a row. You know what this means… It was time for me to cook up a storm!!

Here are a few of the things I made for myself and/or my freezer and my thoughts…

I’ve been really into the Well Fed cookbooks by Mel Joulwan lately. I by no means eat Paleo; but I love cooking real food and keeping away from processed crap as much as possible. So that is where that love stems. I made quite a few things from her books over those two weeks!

  • Homemade Mayo – This is just a staple in my house now. It can be the basis of so many homemade sauces!
  • Magic Dust – A mix of toasted nuts, onions, spices and coconut, this is a tasty little sprinkle of garnishment and flavor! I overcooked mine a bit, but it still is pretty good. Strange but good: A hard boiled egg with a dollop of homemade mayo and Magic Dust.
  • Merguez – The moment I saw Mel’s merguez seasoning mix, I knew I wanted to make this sausage love of mine that stems from my days in the South of France. I made my merguez with a mixture of ground lamb and ground beef. I shaped mine into sausage links, but I really need to work on shaping them! Not pretty…

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  • Simple Lemon Spinach – Also pictured above with my Merguez sausages with some homemade garlic mayo for dipping on the side! This simple spinach has become one of my faves and will go into my regular rotation!
  • Best Chicken Ever – I was skeptical about this. Really? The best? I wanted to make this while Rob was out of town because there are lot of little steps. I will say that the spice blend did not come through as evenly or as nicely as I would have liked… But OMG, brining changes everything!!

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  • Doner Kebab Sausages – What else was I to do with my leftover 1/2 pound lamb and 1/2 pound ground beef from my Merguez? Mel’s Well Fed 2 cookbook has over a dozen meat mixtures that you can make into meatballs, sausages and burgers.
  • Greek Broccoli – From the first Well Fed. I have to say that I didn’t like this dish so much because the tomato paste didn’t mix in very well for me. But I did like the burst grape tomatoes in the recipe! So I’ve made notes to make just those next time (and skip the tomato paste). #RecipeFail=LearnWhatYouLike
  • Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash – Oh how I adored this dish!! If you’ve never had spaghetti squash, you probably should give it a go. To be honest, it’s nothing like pasta. But if I’m having spaghetti squash, I just love flavoring it with sauces instead of eating it plain. I had a little leftover after making my Pad Thai, so I served it alongside some chicken the next day:

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  • Lizard Sauce – I’ve been wanting to make this for ages! I just had to get the dried guajillos. I love using my food processor to make my own sauces without preservatives, too. This stuff has a bite! It’s a good dipper for meat or veggies (see photo above), but I also mixed some with my homemade mayo to make my own Creamy Lizard Sauce to top my spaghetti squash (also see above).

Over those two weekends, I also made a few recipes other recipes. One needs to actually ACTION those Pins at some point!

  • Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken – This chicken was way too dry for my taste. (Or maybe I’d been spoiled by the earlier brined chicken!) I put it in a salad with dressing. It just needed a bit more than I had expected.
  • Ranch Dressing – I didn’t make the Well Fed version. Instead, I used the homemade mayo as a base, this Ranch seasoning mix (it’s one of the few not made with sugar!) and added in a little lemon juice and water to make it tangy and thin it out.
  • Homemade Mexican Green Chorizo – Oh, Homesick Texan, it’s been a while! I’m so glad I busted you out! Chorizo now stocked in the freezer.

What healthy or non-holiday related dishes have you been cooking lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

Thirsty Thursday: Wabasha Brewing

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Poor little blog going by the wayside…

Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about you, Season It Already! 

Sometimes I have all of these ideas in my head and a backlog of things to say that I suffer from Analysis Paralysis. Or, I am just plain and simply Living Life.

Sometimes I forget that a post doesn’t have to have all of my thoughts and ideas in it. Besides, many people these days would prefer something short and sweet.

So here goes, on this Thirsty Thursday, our trip to Wabasha Brewing in St. Paul:

IMG_5137We had a Groupon for this brewery that was to expire at the end of the month. And you know how December goes with events, parties and holiday plans… So the moment my husband arrived back in town from his golf vacay to Sedona, I drug him right out to Wabasha.

Our GPS took us an odd direction, winding through back streets of West St. Paul until we finally arrived at a little warehouse in St. Paul. It didn’t even look open.

But once we pulled around back and found the door, it was quite the quaint, cozy little taproom! There wasn’t any more room at the 5-seat bar, so we just informed the beertender of our Groupon and she promptly filled us up. We took our flights to a corner of the room with a couch, coffee beer table and games.

Imperial Cave Stout, Lawnmower Porter, West Side Popper Jalapeño Cream Ale, Implosion IPA

She told us that she’d recommending drinking them sweetest to hoppiest, which is the opposite of what I would have done! Since my wine days, I always like to go lightest to fullest, driest to sweetest. But what do I know?! I’m sure she’s much more of a beer expert than I am.

Luckily, they just ran out of a keg of another beer, so we got to try the Imperial Stout as part of our flight, which would normally not be eligible with the Groupon.

Here are our thoughts on the beers:

  • Imperial Cave Stout – This was, no doubt, my fave. But where were the caves? I expected this brewery to be near the Wabasha Caves, but we ended up in a part of St. Paul I’d never been. However, when we left for dinner, our GPS guided us in a different direction, passing the Wabasha Caves not far from the brewery. I just was confused why we were taken the way we were on the way in!
  • Jalapeño Cream Ale – I’m not a huge fan of cream ales, but this was my second fave of this bunch. I hadn’t had a Jalapeño beer since we were in North Carolina. I love the subtle spice to this one!
  • Lawnmower Porter – After the stout, this was Rob’s second favorite. I was surprised that the cream ale surpassed the porter for me, since I adore porters. It just seemed a bit watered down. Rob said that was the point. It was more of a session beer, which you find more common among IPAs and other lighter ales. Thus, Lawnmower – you could drink it all day while mowing the lawn…
  • Implosion IPA – Still good, but our least favorite. Rob’s favorite style of beer is IPA and I like them just fine. This one just seemed… light. But maybe that was due to the order we tried them?

Did I mention how I love the cozy atmostphere of Wabasha Brewing?! I can see it being more of a local hangout than a destination brewery. I can’t imagine fitting even 50 people in there!

However, we overheard our beertender saying “Once they move into the new warehouse…” So I inquired. Right now, they are in a little room in the back of the building, but they will be expanding all the way to the front.

Get thee to Wabasha Brewing. We liked it and, if you like beer, think you will, too!

What order do you like to drink a flight of beers?

Cheers~
Carrie